Eyeballing

Stefany Fisher, WGCL

Stefany Fisher, WGCL

WGCL produced a prime-time, magazine-style news program Monday that may have done what it intended:  Snagged eyeballs, tuned in for the NCAA championship basketball game, to sample WGCL’s news.  The hour-long “Eye on Atlanta” was slick, highly watchable and mostly packed with quality newsgathering and storytelling.

* It led with a nine-minute investigation by Wendy Saltzman into an unexpected loophole that potentially screws purchasers of used cars.  If they rely on the auto history provider known as CarFax, they won’t necessarily learn about major accidents.  Some used car dealers have figured that out, and Saltzman popped one of them on camera.  Her piece had the added element of a CarFax spokesman fumbling the reporter’s questions about its failure to provide accurate histories. Saltzman and her crew also got a written warning from Roswell police for failure to leave the premises of the dealership when ordered to do so.  Grade:  A

Saltzman with Roswell's finest

Saltzman with Roswell's finest

* Stefany Fisher’s harrowing investigation into patients who patronized a cut-rate cosmetic surgery clinic went on for twelve minutes.  But the piece had an abundance of evidence that the company, called Lifestyle Lift, had performed lousy surgery on too many patients.  Fisher’s piece also had former employees who said the company strong-armed them into making sales for facelifts they knew they couldn’t deliver.  At the end of the piece, Fisher revealed that the company is suing her personally and Meredith, the owner of WGCL (backhandedly reminding viewers why “new media” eg. bloggers and such cannot replace a deep-pocketed media company committed to exposing scheisters).  It was a powerful follow-up to a piece Fisher first delivered months ago on WGCL.  Grade:  A

* Kim Fettig delivered three well-edited but otherwise forgettable vignettes on recession-related issues.  (Oddly, one of them suggested a way to save money on cosmetic surgery.)  Fettig’s pieces exposed a big flaw in the format:  “Eye on Atlanta” was a 60 Minutes-style magazine, complete with that program’s historic absence of identifying supers.  Fettig put a bunch of people in her pieces who were never identifed, one of whom may or may not have been Cynthia Good.  We’ll never know for sure.  Grade:  B

* Adam Murphy produced the only worthwhile Restaurant Report Card we’ve ever seen.  In it, he highlighted inconsistencies in health inspection laws, and lax enforcement of laws requiring display of restaurant inspection reports.   We’ll take this any time over a laundry list of mishandled food at random suburban restaurants.  Grade:  B+

What are you looking at?  Dagmar Midcap, WGCL

What are you looking at? Dagmar Midcap, WGCL

*  Guess who made two appearances?  In her first one, weather anchor / heartthrob Dagmar Midcap had a by-the-numbers report on tornado preparedness.  It was a glaringly weak moment in an otherwise strong program.  Grade:  C+

* Likewise, Midcap’s kicker was tough to watch, and for the wrong reasons.  It was a first-person piece about her swimming with Hammerhead sharks at the Georgia Aquarium.  The piece was couched as an “overcoming my greatest fear” piece.  In this case, Midcap says she has a phobia about snorkeling masks.   The content was overpowered by Midcap’s sing-songy library-lady delivery, complete with the occasional chuckle and syrupy-sincere inflection.  Funny thing, too — when she speaks spontaneously in the field, as she did during a standup, she sounds like regular folks.    No grade ‘coz we were too distracted.

The program showed off WGCL’s strengths.  It showed off the one personality who is the face of its billboard promotion.  It may have gained some viewers.  It will certainly win some Emmys (because it wasn’t a regularly-scheduled newscast).

It probably also raised eyebrows among Atlanta folks who expect to see a racial mix of talent on their local news.  Noticeably, this mostly well-done showcase lacked such diversity.

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Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

9 thoughts on “Eyeballing

  1. Jim

    Thought it was good stuff, and it probably changed a few opinions about GCL.

    I completely agree with your assessment of Dagmar Midcap. I started out in radio when I was 14. Given that puberty wasn’t that far in my past, I did everything I could to have the “radio voice”.

    First time the old man that ran the place heard me trying it on air, he walked in, cut the mike, and told me to stop sounding like an idiot-advice I never forgot. Dagmar’s natural speaking voice is pleasant, enjoyable, and not at all annoying. When she turns on the “library lady meets phone sex operator” voice, it ruins it.

    That, and I’ve got to say, she’s one of the few women who seems to look better with her hair pulled back. Maybe it’s the plastic “not a strand out of place” thing she does on air, but it’s way too helmet like for me. No, I’ve never made a comment about a man’s hair, so yes, perhaps it’s sexist. But I’m not the one who hired a weather chick instead of a meteorologist, so I say it’s fair game.

    She seems intelligent, and her car pieces are quite good, but I can’t get past that phony voice.

    I did like seeing them invest in something besides the minute thirty packages that have become standard in local news.

    Reply
  2. tower child

    You have to give them kudos.

    They clearly spent the money, timne and effort to do some real journalism.

    The car, Lifestyle Lift and Restaurant review stories kicked butt. The economy stories were right on target.

    It’s nice we have one station in town willing to preempt their prime time to do realy news.

    Journalis,

    Very refreshing.

    Let’s see a blogger do that.

    Reply
  3. live apt fire Post author

    @ griftdrift

    I’ve read your piece. It suggests that an angry lawyer — like the guy suing WGCL over the Lifestyle Lift piece — would be able to simply shut down a blogger with a cease-and-desist letter. I’m unclear as to why that debunks the notion that deep-pockets media is a good thing.

    I hadn’t intended to suggest that bloggers aren’t useful as investigative entities. Some of them do good work ferreting out corruption in government. But when the target is a private company — where different standards of libel apply — the journalist can be intimidated more easily.

    I doubt any blogger already facing a lawsuit by a private company would have had the cojones to do an in-depth follow-up targeting the same company, repeating the same allegations— as WGCL has done.

    This isn’t a big issue for me, but feel free to prove me wrong. Thanks for the input.

    Reply
  4. John

    watching the preempted reruns of “Big Bang Theory” and “How I Met Your Mother” would have been time spent more productively than watching anything with Dagmar.

    Reply
  5. griftdrift

    I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t have deep pockets media. Another fallacy that frequently pops up is when I defend my medium I’m somehow attacking other mediums. Not true. I want us all to exist. There is plenty of news in this town for everyone.

    But I digress.

    The fallacy I’m pointing out is in arguing that because a blogger doesn’t have deep pockets he is a less likely target for a scavenging lawyer. This argument also metastisizes into bloggers can say anything because no one will ever sue a poor blogger.

    Neither is true. In fact I would argue the opposite. It is exactly because we don’t have deep pockets that we have to be careful. If one of our targets screamed to our hosts about libel, the host isn’t going to take very long to weigh the finer points of free speech against the costs they would incur with a lawsuit. I can be silenced in a keystroke. And with little recourse.

    It’s not that we wouldn’t have the cajones to follow up on an investigation following some scurrilous accusation by a target, it’s that we probably wouldn’t exist to do a follow-up.

    The fact is we both have skin in the game. I will certainly admit it is on a different scale but to argue that I have no skin (or risk) at all is fallacious.

    Now about this.

    tower child said: “Let’s see a blogger do that”

    Okay.

    http://www.myurbanreport.com/?p=206

    I picked video since that’s the nature of this blog. I can find more if you want. Or examples of written journalism.

    What really bothers me about this type of argument is it places every thing as an “either or”. Does it have to be? There are going to be things that traditional media does well and there’s going to be things that new media does well. And occasionally those two things will even cross.

    But what really bothers me about this argument is the mediums of TV and print journalism have been around for 60 to 200 years. New media has only been around for about 10 (or less) yet some expect us to leap fully formed Athena-like from the head of Zeus.

    Well that is one thing we can’t do. But we are catching up. And if you don’t believe it, you’re not looking very hard.

    But frankly I’m tired of this fight. It’s time to look to what’s next instead of rehashing the same arguments over and over.

    An Atlanta journalism town hall is in its embryonic stages of organization and when there are more details I’ll let you know. I’d love to see the LAF community there.

    Reply
  6. Pingback: Same story, different day « live apartment fire

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